Warner Brothers 2584
Produced by David Rubinson
At a time when the Santana machine was starting to putter, this band hit the streets with all cylinders firing. The Santana comparisons were inevitable and there’s plenty here to justify the comparisons, including the fact that lead guitarist Jorge Santana often sounded a lot like his brother, but while the guitar licks are sometimes a dominant part of the sound, and occasionally excessive, this band knew when to cut it out, and even the guitar is an integral part of the groove. Also, this band clearly had its own horn-driven sound. This is as much an extension of the music of El Chicano as it is an extension of Santana’s sound.
You can also hear a bridge between two places, Latin America and the Bay Area, picking up influences from East LA along the way. The hard-driving cuts are contrasted with some laid back numbers, and besides the Frisco rock and Oakland funk elements, occasionally hints of a War influence show.
Beyond the comparisons, this band offers a sound all its own. While they perhaps don’t deliver any cuts that fit into the classic category, there’s more than enough to make this a highly recommended debut album. They deliver plenty of variety and fuse a lot of styles, but manage to create a tight sound and a cohesive set, and they keep it going strong through both sides.
— winch (author of Kalamazoo and Junk Like That)
Recorded 1968 (Fillmore East and West, and Golden State Recorders), released March 1969 (US & UK), reached #27.
An exercise in excess if there ever was one, apparently a mix of different live shows fused with studio work, “Who Do You Love” stretched out for the entire first side, or at least the song dominates the side, opens and closes it, sandwiches a bunch of acid-fueled madness, and if that wasn’t enough, side two opens with “Mona,” blurring Bo’s beat into a messy acid-rock sound that sounds like it’s helping to invent a new version of space rock and is certainly one of acid-rock’s defining moments. Like with “Who Do You Love” on side one, “Mona” squeals into some noisy feedback-drenched jamming, except while side one returned to Bo’s beat with a bass-driven vengeance, this feedback continues until a brief version of the title track (Dale Evans) closes the set.
This album might be a bit too much for some, but this definitely has some killer moments. At least this group had the sense to use Diddley’s beat to help power the monster along,contrasting the meandering madness with some thumping bass-heavy punch. While this group had a promising debut, they climaxed with this set. It’s much better than most of the West Coast jamming from this era, miles ahead of Iron Butterfly or the Grateful Dead. While the Dead’s jamming sounded like a drunken hippie staggerring aimlessly down a dirt road, this at least uses some muscle to carve out a ditch. The lunatic music certainly bounces around inside the groove, but it’s got some direction. If you ever wanted to go back in time to Frisco in 1968, this is probably as close you’ll ever get. Light up and kick back, and even if your stash is running low, you can probably catch a buzz just listening to this album.
author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s
Vince Guaraldi Trio
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus
Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
With the bossa nova craze taking off, Fantasy packaged this set to point out the focus of side one. For the cuts on that side, Guaraldi took the music from the Brazilian film and brought it to San Francisco, taking the bossa nova into an established style of this era–cool jazz.
While the popularity of the film might have had a lot to do with this album getting airplay, the music soon took on a life of its own. “Samba De Orpheus” was the single from the album, but when DJs starting spinning the b-side, an original called “Cast Your Fate To the Wind,” Guaraldi was on his way to becoming a household name.
While “Cast Your Fate” might have originally been tacked on for filler, the two-sided single was actually a small mirror of the entire album. The A side of the single opens the album and introduces the Brazilian focus of side one. The B side of the single opens side two and introduces the United States focus of the second half of the set. And while the Brazilian compositions are part of the sound of this album, even those cuts are transformed into cool jazz.
This set is pure early 60s San Francisco, but it ended up being a timeless classic with a sound all its own. If cool jazz often came across as a shallow version of jazz, Guaraldi proved this music could have depth and soul. While Vince might be remembered by most as the pianist who brought us those wonderful soundtracks for the Peanuts, this is the set that introduced Guaraldi to the world.
(author of Kalamazoo: Growing Up Sideways in the 1970s)